Looking east on Second Street toward Main Street.

A Visit to Downtown Chico: Is There Inspiration To Be Found?

It’s always fun to take the occasional trip to your old college town to see how things have changed. The past Friday I took trip down to Chico to see how the old alma mater has fared over the years. I was surprised to see a major change to one of downtown Chico’s busiest thoroughfares.

Second Street, a major east-west artery that skirts the CSU, Chico campus and goes through the heart of downtown has been turned into a one-way eastbound street for several blocks, from Broadway (a southbound arterial), past Main Street (a northbound arterial) and east to a new traffic circle at the bridge across Big Chico Creek. The block between Broadway and Main Street used to be particularly congested in both directions because of cars stacking up to make left turns.

The one-way section of Second Street now features angle-in parking on the north side, two lanes of eastbound traffic, a well-marked bike lane, and parallel parking on the south side.

Many of the businesses expanded their sidewalk dining, venturing closer to the street into areas that previously would have been too unpleasant because of exhaust fumes and traffic noise. The well-defined and wide bike lane is a particularly welcome addition for Chico’s many cyclists, since the arterial previously lacked bike lanes—lionhearted cyclists previously had to navigate the extremely narrow and unmarked space between on-street parking and traffic lanes.

The City of Chico should be commended for its willingness to experiment with new ideas and seeking to refine its streets to make them more inviting and livable for all its citizens. Although downtown Redding is often criticized for its confusing one-way streets, downtown Chico has just as many—if not more! What changes do you think Redding could make to make its downtown streets as inviting as those of Chico?

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